Community-Connect: A Platform for Sustainability Resource Exchange in Post-pandemic Smart Cities

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the vulnerability of our social, economic, and technological systems during emergencies. In the pandemic's initial stages, there was a surge in demand for health and safety information, essential products, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs). The pandemic made it difficult for caregivers, businesses, and individuals to acquire the necessary supplies, adhere to safety regulations, and protect people in the wake of this crisis. In addition, the sluggish supply chain was further exacerbated by continuous lockdowns, leading to global shortages of essential supplies. At the local level, communities' ability to locate necessary resources for purchasing and gathering relevant information became increasingly difficult. The pandemic revealed the importance of supporting business networks and the value of access to quick and accurate critical details. 

Our project, Community-Connect, addresses these issues in a novel platform that responds to the needs of communities during the COVID-19 pandemic and other unforeseen emergencies. The major project goals are to: 1) provide a networking tool that facilitates communications between suppliers or resource owners and people demanding products; 2) provide group purchasing power to reduce the cost of PPE and other products in emergencies and critical conditions; 3) ensure the safety of products through an automated process of validation and approval by appropriate authorities; and 4) support and enhance interactions and discussions among community members with pertinent information, educational materials, and guidelines. 

To achieve these goals, we developed the Community-Connect platform which consists of a marketplace mobile application and an information communication website: Community-Connect’s marketplace mobile application is powered by Artificial Intelligence to help local businesses effectively procure products that are difficult to find during emergencies from local suppliers or other businesses that may have a surplus. This application automates much of the market research for selecting products during times of distress in an intuitive e-commerce interface. There are three primary novel components to this application: 1) a Buyer’s Club feature allowing customers and businesses to combine resources to purchase bulk orders and reduce individual item costs; 2) an automated system utilizing Natural Language Processing that detects trending pandemic and disaster-related topics in order to inform buyers and suppliers of the changing market conditions; 3) a regulation matching system containing a custom dataset to guide customers during product purchasing. This component facilitates compliance with the regulatory environment that can rapidly change during emergencies.   


Pandemic, Emergency, Natural Language Processing, Artificial Intelligence 



Team Lead: Shahin Vassigh

Project Team: Biayna Bogosian, Shu-Ching Chen, Eric Peterson


NSF Funding, NSF: ITE: Innovation and Technology Ecosystems